TFW2005 staff member SydneyY has shared with us some translations of an interview with Takara-Tomy’s Yuya Onishi. Mr Onishi has worked on a wide spectrum of Transformers releases over the last few years, including the Age of Extinction Deluxe new Bumblebee, Deluxe Drift and Generations Starscream and Brainstorm, all of whom are discussed here.
It’s a particularly insightful collection of interviews, giving us a view into the creative process of these cool Transformers toys – check it out after the break. Thanks also goes to TFW staff members Shin Densetsu, Mechafire and EnergonWaffles for their support and assistance during the translations. Disclaimer: The reason I provide this translation is solely to help non-Japanese fans who are unable to read these insightful interviews. Hope you’ll enjoy 🙂
Below are extracts from these interview articles:
On AoE deluxe Bumblebee and deluxe Drift from TakaraTomy Designer’s Review
On AoE deluxe Drift, Generations Legend Starscream, Generations Brainstorm from Hobowaku Internet Mail Magazine
Credit to Shin Densetsu and Mechafire for their advice. Thanks guys for enduring my incoherent questions. (Though all grammatical errors and typos are my responsibility.)
also I’d like to thank EnergonWaffles.
Born in 1984. Joined TakaraTomy in 2011 and works on over 20 Transformers items every year.
On AoE deluxe Bumblebee
– What aspects did you spend most time on?
Onishi: Including various gimmicks – specifically, the flip-over blaster in the right arm and the battle mask. I considered many options carefully and decided on those.
It was almost impossible to include everything I wanted of course due to the cost restriction, and the figure is only 5 inches tall, but I managed to realise the cool appearance and playability at the same time.
Also, this is a popular character Bumblebee, and I took over from another developer who had worked on the mainline Bumblebee toys for a long time, which made me quite ambitious to create a product that I would love to own myself. I worked enthusiastically to realise it.
Secondly, Making the strong looking build of movie Bumblebee into a form –
This is the fourth movie and my impression (of Bumblebee) was that he was becoming bulkier and bulkier. Especially in this “Lost Age (Japanese name for Age of Extinction – Sydney)” I thought he was even bigger.
Though Bumblebee doesn’t have the “wings” this time – needless to say, it was the detail that surprised me most when we received the concept sketches from the movie studio – and as I drew the plan I had some concerns that the silhouette of the robot might appear small.
Another details very different (from previous movie Bumblebee designs) were that the car front did not form the robot chest and the headlights were placed on the shoulders – I might be the one that got the biggest shock in the world when the trailer was out right before the movie was released – those presented me with new challenges.
Specifically, I made sure the limbs and the chest were well-balanced. Two parts are layered to represent a bulky chest, which is hard to achieve with a sports car character. As for the thighs, knees and shins, the contrast of the thick and thin parts are much more distinctive compared to the traditional Transformer toys. Also the feet are made large intentionally in order to give the illusion of larger silhouette.
I applied those methods as I designed the whole body and it does not look small standing next to the “winged” High-Octane Bumblebee. I am satisfied that I created the bulkiest looking Bumblebee.
Thirdly, I introduced a new transformation process to this latest Movie Bumblebee.
As I mentioned earlier, this Bumblebee was very different from previous versions with almost no visible vehicle parts in robot mode. Because of that the change was unavoidable, but it may not have been necessary to alter the transformation process of the legs as the pattern had been quite established. However, a drastic change to the leg area was essential to achieve the bulky build I was aiming for. I wonder if the pros and cons of this change are discussed somewhere, though I myself feel the change was achieved convincingly and as well as the well proportioned appearance, I am confident you can enjoy transforming that part as something a bit novel while it may be basic.
On AoE deluxe Drift
– What aspects did you spend most time on?
Onishi: Firstly, the salient characteristic of Drift – Armoured Samurai style.
When I saw the concept sketches from the movie studio, first of all I was taken aback by his humanoid shape.
The proportional balance of the limbs and the head was completely different from any other robots I had seen before. Specifically, his head was big considering the size of the limbs.
That may work fine in the movie, though when it takes a form of a five-inch tall robot figure it might look incongruous without a well-balanced design. I put a lot of thoughts into putting it together.
Also he is very unique with his extensive armour theme. I took great care of designing all armour pieces in proportion to each other as well as taking account of articulations.
Secondly, the re-creation of his four swords and making them attachable to both vehicle and robot modes.
It was especially important for me to make the two shorter swords fit inside the vehicle interior.
Using centre-split CAD data to determine the available space and the positioning of the movable parts for transformation, I worked together with the modeller to come up with the best possible way to store (the swords).
Thirdly, The side-swivel of the wrists.
Drift is a character whose weapons of choice in a battle are swords, so the articulations in the wrists are essential to the realistic appearance and poseablity. The figure has separate fist parts that fit within the available space and are also solid.
Fourthly, lavishly used detented joints.
The main concept of Advanced Series is to achieve both usability and poseability in higher level. Feedback from the users is a crucial factor in the advancement of our work and since Transformers figures often have ball joints these days, many users pointed out that those joints could pop out during transformation or became worn and loose. Especially the former can be seen as “broken” from a young child’s point of view and I wanted to properly deal with such issues that influence the “feel” of a figure. I decided to construct (Drift) only with detented joints.
Eight parts were required just for a hinge while only four would be sufficient for a ball joint, yet (Drift) is just as gimmicky as other items in my opinion. I made sure to achieve that.
Allow me to use this opportunity to talk about joints though I am broadening the subject to designing Transformers product in general. Ball joints are useful all-rounder which allow wide range of movement, and I think they are great for the toys of the Dinobots in this movie whose movements are organic as they wreak havoc. I believe it’s ideal when we can choose the best option according to the series or the concept. It should also show each designer’s individuality which might interest you.
On AoE deluxe Drift
Onishi: Outer designs that do not include transformation mechanisms are sometimes outsourced, but I do everything. The developer team consists of eight including myself and we develop about 120 transformers a year. All of us get involved in the most of the production process.
I work on many Movie Transformers these days, but the transforming sequences in the movies are fully done in CG and impossible to re-create, and I disregard those more or less. Then I come up with the transforming process featuring the subject’s characteristic parts. For example, the front grille part was the very distinctive in Drift and I allocated it to the chest and started designing from there.
I wish I could check out the actual vehicle as well, though a Bugatti Veyron worth more than two hundred million yen was not quite accessible. which was expected. (*laughs) Even when I don’t get to see actual vehicles, I always buy and refer to their accurate models that overseas toy manufacturers produce under licence. I go to the zoo if the motif is an animal. It is important to carefully look at the material that (the product is) based on.
On Generations Starscream
O: When I first got to work on a Transformer, I thought, “How can I pull it off!?” (*laughs)
This Starscream figure that turns into a plane is the first one I created. I had a very hard time, though I managed to come up with the complete design in a week. Beginning with this Starscream, all the way through to AoE deluxe Drift, I think I have consistently avoided using faux/fake parts as much as possible.
Starscream is a character whose distinguishable design is his robot chest formed with the nose of the jet. Folding the nosecone back and showing the faux nosecone moulded into the robot chest during the transformation would be much easier design choice. But I really, really did not want to use a faux part and spent extra time to design the actual nosecone to be the robot chest.
– Why do you expend such great efforts on avoiding faux parts?
O: As Transformer figures became more intricate in both design and transformation process recently, there was a time faux parts were needed and used very often. But Transformers are toys first and foremost, rather than industrial products. In my opinion, they should be easy for children to play with.
Say, there are some Transformers and they are all cars, yet each of them transforms to the robot with a different process. Children can use their imagination when there is a hint about how to transform one to the robot, and such ability wouldn’t function if a faux part was used for the characteristic part of the robot in the picture. I didn’t think it would make the toy enjoyable.
On Generations Brainstorm
Onishi: There is aesthetics of Transformers of course, but I also have a certain ideal as a product designer. I consider the ease and comfort of use very important in a product.
– This is Brainstom!
O: Yes. This product is in a category called “Headmasters”, a combiner whose gimmick is a smaller robot that transform to the head of a bigger robot. It is a remake of the 80s toy developed with the today’s technology. Many product design factors have been incorporated into it – for example, the original toy’s head was simply pushed on and pulled off while this one has a proper lock which makes the attaching and detaching easy. Also, the small robot can sit in the cockpit of the plane the bigger robot transforms to. Since the reveal at the event the other day, I have seen the comments online that it wouldn’t be possible because of the size of the figure (*laughs) …But of course I made it possible!
As he is a Headmaster character, I felt the small robot definitely had to be able to pilot if there was a cockpit.
I also kept the transformation process simple and made the hollow side of the parts as inconspicuous as possible – I purposefully designed it to maximise the comfortable feel when you pick it up.